Man, all-electric SUVs from startups are coming out of the woodwork. The latest is from China with some controversial features. The M-Byte SUV from Byton had a production-ready prototype at the CES Show in Las Vegas. With a 224-mile range and a list price of $45,000, it seems to fit the conventional EV mode.
The controversy revolves around the 48-inch curved screen spread out on top of the dashboard. First impressions are it will be a huge distraction. The touch controls are located in the steering wheel hub. Combine the two and the driver can’t help but take his/her eyes off of the road for a myriad of reasons.
The Byton conceived controls on the steering wheel remain fixed
The controls are on top of the steering wheel airbag and remain fixed even if the wheel is turned. This was created from Byton software. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are compatible. Byton has heard the skeptics’ concerns over the screens and controls. Representatives told Consumers Reports they are not concerned because the screen is not in the driver’s field of vision.
Then there is a second touch screen for passengers in the console. Gesture controls can be used by either driver or passenger to direct certain functions. Facial recognition is handled by a camera pointed at the driver. Why? Byton says it will help the driver to ensure they are not distracted when using certain controls.
As for the rest of the interior, it is also a conventional design. Automotive suppliers supplied the bulk of the interior so it stands to reason it remains fairly staid. The floor is flat which allows for different interior configurations.
Three different power configurations are available
Power comes from a variety of electric motors. A 72-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery with rear-wheel-drive is standard. You can move up from here with a 95 kWh battery that gets 285 miles of range. The 95 kWh battery can also be combined with dual motors for all-wheel-drive. Charging from empty up to 80% will take only 35 minutes according to Byton. The M-Byte is compatible with the Electrify America charging network.
The styling is conventional except for the headlights and taillights. Byton calls them its “light signature” illumination. They are thin, crossed LED bars that show whether the M-Byte is charged by how much they glow. It seems like a good idea to us.
The M-Byte’s main hurdle is sales infrastructure, but there are others
The main hurdle facing Byton’s M-Byte SUV is that it has no infrastructure to sell vehicles in the US. Byton has hired veteran industry executives to help navigate that hurdle. It has forged partnerships with outside companies like Electrify America and secured a revenue stream from stable investors.
Another hurdle for startups is the manufacturing plant itself. Byton has built a huge facility in Nanjing, China. It says the plant has the capacity to make over 300,000 vehicles a year.
It has obtained a US distributor’s license to begin assembling a dealer network. Initial sales will begin in China before venturing out to the US and other countries. With so many balls in the air, it seems a bit ambitious for Byton to begin importing the M-Byte here by 2021. Nonetheless, we look forward to testing a new M-Bite when it does.